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December 11, 2022 Russia-Ukraine News

On Sunday, the President’s special envoy for hostage affairs, Roger Carstens, speaks to CNN’s Dana Bash.

The top US hostage affairs official reflected on the conduct of the prisoner swap that led to the release of Brittney Griner on Sunday, saying the WNBA star immediately thanked the crew who returned her to the United States.

“When she finally got on the American plane, I said, ‘Brittney, you must have been through a lot in the last 10 months. Here is your seat. Do not hesitate to decompress. We’ll give you your space,” the president’s special envoy for hostage affairs, Roger Carstens, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”

“And she said, ‘Oh no. I have been in prison for 10 months and I listen to Russian, I want to speak. But first, who are these guys? And she walked right past me and went up to all the members of this crew, looked them in the eye, shook their hands and asked about them and got their names, making a personal connection with them. It was really amazing,” recalls Carstens. “And then later, on an 18 hour flight, she probably spent 12 hours talking and we talked about everything under the sun.”

Carstens, who led the mission to the United Arab Emirates, provided CNN with new details about Griner’s return trip. Griner, who he described as “a smart, passionate, compassionate, humble, interesting person, a patriotic person – but above all genuine”, appeared healthy and full of energy during the trip.

She was given the feeling, he said, that she would be going home that day, and it felt real to him the moment he was able to board the other plane and tell her that ” On behalf of the President of the United States, Joe Biden, and Secretary of State Tony Blinken, I am here to bring you home.

“At this point we have to do a little more choreography to get her on the plane, it usually takes about three minutes,” Carstens said.

Although he said Griner opened up about his ordeal during the trip, he declined to elaborate on specifics.

Learn more about it here.

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